The gauntlet was thrown down by Satan; thrown in the face of God.
“I know your creation better than you do,” Satan taunts God. “You think Job is such a wonderful example of humanity, but let him experience trials and he’ll turn his back on you. He only worships you because he’s had no troubles. If you don’t believe me, just give me a chance at him.”
It is an audacious dare, a dare that comes from a heart of pride. It is a dare made by a psychopath.
Instead of dismissing Satan, God, ever the teacher, chooses, once again, to make a point with the Prince of Darkness. There seems to be no hesitation by God. As usual, He knows what he’s doing.
“Very well, then,” God says, “everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
In that statement there hinges the balance of power between heaven and hell. Who best knows the heart of man – The Creator or The Deceiver?
Satan leaves the presence of God rubbing his hands together in eager anticipation, certain that he will finally win at least this one battle in the epic war he’s waged against the one who threw him from the heavenly realms.
How could God, the Father of love and mercy, give permission to Satan to inflict so much pain on the man Job? He could do it because he does know this man’s heart. He had complete confidence in Job to do the right thing, to make the right choices. God believed in Job.
God was giving Job an opportunity to demonstrate to Satan, and to himself, that all that matters is serving the Ruler of the Universe. The principle was not dependent on life circumstances.
A similar conversation takes place thousands of years after the one surrounding Job. Satan asks for permission to have his way with an impulsive, brash fisherman.
This time God is Immanuel and walking on the earth as a servant. So Jesus actually tells the fisherman, Peter, about the conversation, “Satan has asked to sift you like wheat,” which, according to the metaphor, meant that Satan was going to flail him and throw him up into the wind.
So, just like Job, Peter was going to be given an opportunity to prove his loyalty in a crucible.
Sadly, Peter failed. Later that very night he denied ever knowing the Savior.
Thankfully his failure was not the final script. Jesus still has faith in Peter to make good choices. He even predicts the outcome. After telling Peter that Satan has asked for him, Jesus says, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (emphasis mine.)
It’s like Jesus says to Peter, “I know you’re not going to be perfect. You’re going to make some bad choices. But you’re going to come through it. I still believe in you. I believe you will do the right thing.”
It is a crucial point for me to remember when I am going through a crucible, when Satan has asked to sift me: God believes in me. I would never be placed there to begin with without Him having confidence in me to make good choices. It’s like the coach placing the ball in your hands to take the final shot that will win the game.
What a confidence booster!
What an opportunity!
[There are more articles based on the first two chapters of the book of Job. Click on the category The Land of Uz to read them.]